Many have tried to explain bitcoin, some with more success than others.
Creating a short and snappy video that makes bitcoin accessible to a general audience, while simultaneously doing justice to the complex ideas behind its technology is a big ask. Anyone who tries should be applauded.
However, while some have clearly done a very good job, others haven’t quite cracked it.
Below, Kadhim Shubber takes a look at some of the best (and worst) bitcoin explainer videos out there. You can let us know which is your favourite by voting at the bottom of the article – or suggesting your own in the comments.
Probably the snazziest bitcoin explainer yet, Vox leaves aside any discussion of bitcoin as a currency and instead focuses on its potential as a payment network. The promise of bitcoin is “permissionless innovation” in the financial sector, argues Vox. Although Ezra Klein, who narrates the video, does shy away from bitcoin’s history and exactly how it works, as a primer on bitcoin’s potential impact this video is top-notch.
Straight to the moon: “You can do cool things without any central authority being able to tell you ‘no’.”
Crash and burn: Not embeddable
A more comprehensive overview of bitcoin, The Guardian emphasises the benefits of sending money directly from customer to merchant: no money-grubbing banks taking a cut. The video touches on the double-spending problem, but doesn’t really address how the block chain (which doesn’t get a mention) solves that problem. Although it’s an enjoyable walkthrough of the story of bitcoin, people looking for an explanation of how it works will have to go elsewhere. After all, it is called ‘Bitcoin made simple’.
Straight to the moon: “You may think that the system we have is pretty good, but everything we buy today has to go through a bank or credit card company, who take a cut of the transaction.”
Crash and burn: Pays lip service to the double-spending problem, but doesn’t follow through. Also, not embeddable.
The Washington Post
Less slick than the previous explainers, The Washington Post promises to explain bitcoin but spends much of the second half of the video discussing the impact of Mt. Gox’s collapse. A key part of the bitcoin story, sure, but we’re not left any the wiser about how bitcoin works or why people are excited about it.
Straight to the moon: “It’s virtual money that can be transferred from person to person online, without a middleman. That means no banks, and their transaction fees.”
Crash and burn: This video only really makes sense if you already know what bitcoin is. A newcomer is unlikely to understand the jargon.
The New York Times
“What makes ‘money’ money?” That’s the angle The New York Times takes on bitcoin, addressing an issue the other videos mostly skirt around. Admirable, but it’s arguably a poor way to explain what bitcoin is, with the video focusing on mining itself instead of the system and processes that mining facilitates.
Straight to the moon: “There’s no Ben Bernanke of bitcoin, no central bank or government authority at all.”
Crash and burn: The Winklevoss Twins feature for 11 whole seconds, which is about 11 seconds too many.
Duncan Elms and Marc Fennell
One of the most viewed bitcoin explainer videos ever, this dazzling and beautiful video by Duncan Elms and Marc Fennell isn’t as strong as it would first appear. Its main failing is that it doesn’t break things down, leaving the viewer with a hefty amount of google-fu to do afterwards to get a proper feel for the concepts discussed.
Straight to the moon: Damn this video is beautiful, I need to rewatch it.
Crash and burn: I’m not sure I really understood, I need to rewatch it.
My Drunk Kitchen
You are really unlikely to learn anything about bitcoin from this video, but if you don’t smile at least once you are a heartless so and so.
Straight to the moon: “The new digital decentralized chocolate chip market is based purely on supply and demand.”
Crash and burn: Forget digital currencies, let’s get drunk and open a bakery!
We Use Coins
The updated version of the most watched bitcoin explainer ever, this video covers all the bases and uses some cool graphics to explain the concepts around bitcoin. Like Vox, it notes the potential of bitcoin as a platform for innovation but when it says “Let’s look at how it works”, it really means, ‘Let’s not scare anyone away with the nitty gritty’. However, explaining bitcoin in just over a minute and a half was always going to requires compromises and, on the whole, We Use Coins provide a great introduction to the digital currency.
Straight to the moon: “Bitcoin is changing finance the same way the web changed publishing.”
Crash and burn: The wide-eyed cartoon people are a little bit creepy. Just a little bit.
Are you willing to spend 20 minutes learning about how bitcoin actually works? Yes? Great! Watch this video. No? Move along then.
Straight to the moon: Now I’m finally beginning to understand what’s going on here.
Crash and burn: What year is it?
It’s probably not entirely fair to include this video, as it’s merely the introduction to a longer series of lessons on the mechanics of bitcoin. But it deserves a mention because if you really want to get to grips with the computer science behind bitcoin, it’s worth grabbing a pen and paper and spending a weekend with Zulfikar Ramzan, your teacher in these videos.
Straight to the moon: Achievement unlocked, bitcoin expert.
Crash and burn: My head hurts now.
Length: 09:08 [the series of videos run to over an hour and a half]